Vatnajökull Glacier, literally meaning, “glacier of rivers”, happens to be the biggest glacier in Iceland and is situated in an extremely volcanically active region, in the southeastern part of the country. At 8,100 sq km it is the second biggest glacier in the entire Europe and on an average the thickness of the ice remains unbelievably around 400m. Beneath the glacier are hidden a number of active volcanoes and this area is the center of many adventurous activities and also some tranquil cruises as well as wildlife expeditions.
Seat of Iceland’s most active volcano ever since the Middle Ages, Vatnajökull Glacier had been on the rise until 1930. However, later on due with effects from climate changes and intermittent volcanic activities the glacier has tended to shrink. A national park was established here in the year 2008.
Vatnajokull Glacier – History
Right after the time of the first eruption of eth lake region research started in the year 1934 and from then on it has continued with full vigor and enthusiasm with the establishment of the Iceland Glaciological Society in 1950 which owns a number of huts in various places on the ice mass. The most recent eruptions of the lake region have to have occurred in 1996, in 1998 and then in 2003. The first trip across the Vatnajokull Glacier from the southern end and back was completed in 1875 by an Englishman along with a few Icelanders who were the first witnesses to the Askja eruption which took place in the same year. They then reported it to the community living on Lake Myvatn.
It is but obvious that the main draw of the site is Vatnajökull Glacier itself, the largest of its kind in Iceland, a landmass which is spread over more than 8% of the nation’s territory. However, the region is also the abode of Hvannadalshnúkur, Iceland’s highest mountain rising to a height of 2110m and also a number of active volcanoes underneath the glaciers. The Vatnajökull National Park is another attraction in this region. It is a charming area full of waterfalls like, the popular Svaturfoss, rivers, glaciers, black sand as well as mountains. This is the biggest national park in all of Europe and Dettifoss is Europe’s most potent waterfall here.
Considered to be the largest in all of Europe in terms of volume, the Vatnajokull Glacier has an average width of 400 meters and it has the potential of reaching up to as much as 1000 meters. Covering an approximate area of 8100 sq km, the glacier has beneath itself several active volcanoes, the most active amongst which is the Grison volcano which last erupted very recently in November 2004. As a result of these volcanic eruptions, tubas or volcanoes with steep sides were formed. The setting of the glaciers comprises plateaus, valleys as well as canyons.
Tourist activities at Vatnajokull Glacier
There is no dearth of variety in the activities that tourists can embark upon at the site of the Vatnajokull Glacier. In fact, there are too many options of tourist activities on ice for one to choose from while you are on a tour to the site. You can opt any of them from ice climbing, to snowmobile riding; from trekking to sailing. No special training or experience is required climbing the glacier. There are several professional climbers at the site to help you out with the climb, ensuring your safety. The cruises between the enormous glaciers and the several icebergs floating across the sea can be some of the most intriguing activities for tourists here. You can travel all over the famous glacier along with a veteran guide while you ride a snowcap or a jeep. If you are lucky enough you can even spot Humpbacks and Blue Whales and dolphins.
Fishing in the adjacent village at the site of the Vatnajokull Glacier is also a major attraction here. The hot springs within ice caves as well as the cavern system underneath the glacier is a tempting tourist attraction.
How to reach Vatnajokull Glacier
You can easily reach the region of Vatnajökull Glacier with Eagle Air which operates regular and frequent flights between Reykjavík and Höfn and the every day buses that ply regularly from Reykjavík and Akureyri all through the summer months.